The Victoria Hurricanes were one of just two developmental football teams from the entire state of Texas to make it through the spring season undefeated. Two weeks ago, they rallied back late in the fourth quarter to win the Crossroads Amateur Football League Championship 26-22 over the Wharton County Panthers to finish the season 14-0 (12-0 in CRAFL).
“It’s just the leadership of these guys that took this team to this route, the undefeated route,” Hurricanes owner Rudy Guzman told Developmental Football USA.
Victoria had built a 20-8 lead, but the Panthers clawed their way back into the game and before the Hurricanes knew it, they were losing 22-20 with five minutes left in the game.
“Wharton was pretty pumped up at that time,” Guzman said. “Then the leaders on that offense put it together, never doubted each other and communicated and did what we had to do to win the game.
“We had ca good combination of veterans and some rookies this year and the veterans have control of the team. Whenever you have a quarterback like Cordero ‘Showtime’ Williams, it sure makes it easy on the offensive coordinator, when you have some guys out on the football field that have a high IQ for football.”
An extremely talented backfield led the Hurricanes through their perfect season and helped them overcome in the final minutes when the championship was in jeopardy.
“It has to be three guys,” Guzman said. “Of course, Cordero ‘Showtime’ Williams, then we have Donnie Butler Jr. He went to Nebraska, so you know he is a hell of an athlete.”
“He’s got a brother by the name of Chris Sanders, I think he played at Abilene Christian. He’s one of our oldest players at 32 or 33. He’s an old school type of running back. In the championship, we needed to get one first down so we could just run out the clock against Wharton. We went double tight end set and pounded the ball behind the fullback. Chris Sanders is one of those guys. At the end of the game, just give him the ball and he’s going to come through for us.”
Defensively, everyone did their job well enough to finish out the perfect season, but two players especially stood out for the Hurricanes.
“There was one guy that played lights out this year, Rueben Dennis,” Guzman said. “He plays nose tackle and some defensive end. This guy had to get double teamed most of the year.
“Him and Mark Severe, a Texas A&M Kingsville standout linebacker. His nickname is called ‘Hit Stick.’ I should not say anymore. If you earn a nickname called ‘Hit Stick’ on the football field, I don’t even have to know you, I want you.”
The Panthers have always been a challenge for the Hurricanes due to their familiarity with each other, Guzman said.
“They had five of our stars from our team that played for us for five years, the Victoria Texans, the 2013 undefeated champions,” Guzman said. “When we play those guys, we know each other well. They have an advantage because they now our staff and our sets well.
“It’s a little bit of a Civil War type deal when we play each other and both games came down to the final possession.”
With the CRAFL season behind them, it’s wait-and-see for the Hurricanes as bowl game and national championship invitations have yet to go out.
“We’re going to go ahead and do this deal in July we were invited to, go to this thing called Clash of the Titans, the Texas Bowl,” Guzman said. “We’re supposed to play the Brenham Express and Texas Monthly is supposed to be doing a write-up on the developmental football world in Texas and cover the game. That’s my understanding of what’s going on.
“The only thing I could see is if it would conflict with the state tournament date. I was approached by league owner from CRAFL seeing if we wanted to participate. We’re considered AA football, he was wanting to know if we want to do a national game, so that might be in the makings also.”
While much can be learned from any championship team, other developmental teams should follow an example set by some of the premier teams around Texas, including the Hurricanes.
“When you give to your community, the community embraces you,” Guzman said. “A lot of teams get so surprised when they come down to play us because we have, on a bad night 600 and a good night 1100 or 1200 fans. There’s times we go out of town to play and there’s like six people in the stands. It’s pretty bad.
“If you give to the community, they will embrace you like there’s no tomorrow. That’s the best advice I can give to any team owner. Do that and if you want a fan base, get out there and advertise also.”
As is the case with most levels of football, playing for a championship team in front of a solid fan base typically requires a certain level of character from the players.
“I’ve had to dismiss probably 20 guys,” Guzman said. “At every halftime during a home game, we recognized 20 or 30 kids from different schools and encourage them with medals, like best improved, and things like that. It’s real simple, I tell my players, ‘It’s not about you, it’s about the love and respect for the game that we play.’”